About two months ago, I (along with the entirety of the comics-reading world) was shocked when Berke Breathed announced with very little fanfare that he’d be reviving his seminal (and I don’t use that word lightly) comic strip Bloom County. Reactions varied from disbelief to swooning joy to pointed disinterest. After all, while the daily Bloom County strip might have ended in 1989, Breathed hardly disappeared from the scene. He continued to do Sunday-only weekly cartoons in the form of Outland, which featured many of his most popular characters, in particular Opus the penguin and Bill the cat. And though Outland ceased in 1995, Breathed returned to Sunday comic pages in 2003 with Opus (again, featuring his famous penguin) for another five-year run.
None of the Sunday-only strips had the same success as the original Bloom County did. In fact, to me they always seemed like pale echoes of the original work. I read them with a sense of nostalgia, but never really felt invested the way I did when reading Breathed’s comics in the ’80s. So even when he made the announcement of Bloom County 2015, my reaction was somewhat melancholy. My internal voice was saying, “That’s nice . . . but it’s not like you really MEAN it,” and more particularly, “It won’t be the same.” I figured it would be another Sunday-only style strip that he’d update semi-regularly and probably soon grow bored with. After all, Breathed has spent much of the last decade creating children’s books (and occasionally seeing them turned into really terrible movies).
But to my surprise, he DID really mean it. And the format of Bloom County 2015 is much closer to the original. Though not published daily, it is appearing 4-5 times per week in standard four-panel daily-style strips . . . and THAT makes all the difference!
Bloom County was strongest when Breathed was unwinding little stories that took a week or two to tell, and the characters had a sense of life and continuity. Sure, he always could tell a good stand-alone gag, but I don’t think that was what his fans loved most. It was, and apparently remains, his ability to mix absurdist situational comedy with editorial commentary on the issues of the day (often focusing on the politics of the day). That’s what his weekly strips failed to capture and THAT’S exactly what he’s doing again with Bloom County 2015.
The only real question I have is why he’s using his Facebook page as the main hub for the comic. Honestly, I’m surprised that others haven’t been publicly pondering that particular decision, given how much scrutiny everything that happens on Facebook gets. (I suspect he’s getting a pretty good paycheck for having picked that venue . . . but I have no evidence of that, just my suspicious mind.)
Anyway, if you’re a fan of classic Bloom County, you really should take the time to try out the 2015 version. Berke Breathed really has recaptured the magic.